15 November 2011

Standard Delivery

The doors slide open slowly, as if they're not quite sure if they'd like to let me in. The room is wide and quiet. People are mostly keeping themselves to themselves. Someone coughs, but it's hidden discreetly behind a polite hand. I join the end of a queue of people staring at polystyrene ceiling tiles, and I wait. Green lights flash up on a black television screen - the only thing in this room that suggests we've moved into the twenty-first century. And like a God watching over us all, the voice of a robotic woman summons up the next waitee. In stark contrast, a nearby flip card clock clicks into place. I like how retro it looks. The flashcards with bold black lettering flick with a tick for each minute that passes. I wonder how long it has been flicking cards on that grubby magnolia wall. The line shuffles forward. Everybody resumes their positions and then pauses, as if part of a synchronous mime act. The sounds in here are most unlike any other. Whirring pages of official red, gold, orange and blue squares, being ripped along perforations. The occasional ker-chunk as something passes the stare of the woman behind the counter, then branded and inked accordingly. Nice and methodical. A tired ceiling fan hums faintly over my head, the blades spinning so slowly that I try to watch one whip around for a while. It makes me feel dizzy, so I lower my eyes down to the present I'm holding tightly in my hands. The paper crunches as I turn it over. I think of the soft woolly scarf I had made, now all snug inside three sheets of wispy black tissue paper, wrapped carefully within two layers of course brown paper and sealed with a good few cuts of screeching sellotape. I think of how she'll open each layer, how the birthday card might fall on her lap, the tissue paper will be left torn on the side. I hope she'll like it. My eyes trace the letters sprawled across the front of the package, spoken in my lovely familiar handwriting and a deep blue ink; all bunched together to create the whereabouts of my little sister. I stare at the letters long enough, until they no longer make sense to me; become a code, just a formation of unusual wiggles. It's the reverberating thud of a rubber stamp on a savings book that jumps me out of my squiggly stupor, just in perfect time for the God of the Post Office to call me forward.


  1. I really dug this piece. It had a good rhythm and reminded me of the post office near my parents house. I haven't actually been there or any other post office for a long time, I rarely use snail mail anymore, but this work reminded me of how connecting and meaningful the act of standing in line at the post can be.

    I must send something to someone soon. =)

  2. well...I thought it was a hospital emergency room. (Ours is a little bit slow to catch on to the fact that we're having an emergency.
    Good post, pun intended.

  3. Your little sister is lucky. I felt like I was standing right there with you!! That's good writing.

  4. way to go....nice stylin girl...
    we just line up here and get into fights when someone decides they need to 'quickly grab that liquid thermometer thingy' and expects to get back in the same spot....bad luck lady, you shoulda scoped that out before you got into the queue...go to the end

  5. Nice post. Oh god, we've been waiting to get to that counter before. I like your observations; very good.

  6. I loved this story and I had to read it twice because I didn't want to miss any details, it's really brilliant. And your sister is very lucky.